George Elliott Clarke,
"The Testament of Ulysses X"

Decayed is Troy, crumbled
            into smoke, ash, stink.
Debilitated are her gods;
            all em drab corpses now,
and reek from every field,
            every temple.
Their armour—extraordinarily—
            is worthless as a chopped-off arm.
Their bronze, their brass, is ludicrous
            as sunflowers on a grave.
No Beauty alleviates this Disaster
            whelped by Helen’s hellish beauty,
her unmistakable beauty.

            If only Menelaus had treated his wife,
Helen, like a dog—
            like the bitch she was born as.
(I think a gutter had been
            her alchemist’s cauldron;
that she abracadabra’d from trashy slut
            to gilt-clad queen.)
Then, her Betrayal could’ve been borne—
            and thousands of brave sons,
fathers, husbands,
            allowed to farm and press
anthologies of grapes,
            pour out dramatic honey,
and keep un pied-à-terre
            gushing wine and mead;
not endure tatterdemalion of wave
            and torch,
the distempered gravity of spears,
            hooking out hearts or eyes;
nor smoke as gloomy as beige;
            nor cathedral letters,
premature obituaries;
            nor the turmoil of wounds,
the exhaust of blood;
            nor arrowed ghosts,
their chests bristling thistles;
            nor skid-marks of toppling chariots;
nor lightning, Fate’s graffiti,
            tensing the atmosphere….
But Helen turned out to be the slushy buttress
            of a pimp’s bedroom.

Now, Troy is a moon-singed Hell;
            the cut-out crescent moon is
a candle wick lit.
            This light has an idiotic friendship
with the dark,
            for it is more a tintorella*
than it is moonlight.
            It is curiously dull.
But suitable is this sombre shade
            closing upon indignant fisticuffs
that shovelled so many Greeks
            into this merciless, foreign dust.

The Trojans came at us
            as suicide wrecks:
They perished like silken snow—
            a glut,
in entangled, insidious, parliamentary silence,
            impatient to be bones—
a grand stink
            springing up in the spring:
even their horses become
            monotonous, frozen sculptures,
each one a doleful mirror of maggots,
            a rat’s nest of snakes—
cadavers become miserable,
            ragged flowers.

 

[Nanaimo (British Columbia) 21 octobre mmxv]


*Italian: Sunburn.
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